Not that the GOP Congress has been much better. Tax Freedom Day was May 4 in ’95, the first year of GOP leadership.
True, the Senate did hold two rounds of hearings on IRS abuses. Senators worked themselves into a lather over taxpayer mistreatment.
In the words of Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.: “We need to get on with … restructuring the IRS, sensitizing them.” Even President Clinton said he was “outraged” by the stories of intimidation and abuse.
Such public shows of indignation are insincere. After all, Congress wrote and the president signed the ridiculously complex tax code we have today. They spent the money collected by the IRS. In short, they are the real culprits. Tinkering with IRS enforcement practices is not nearly enough.
But neither party seems very interested in reducing the tax burden. Clinton proposed $150 billion in new spending this year alone. The GOP transportation bill busts budget caps set just last summer. The prospect of a surplus has left both parties with visions of pork dancing in their heads.
Serious reform should start with slashing spending. And no fake “cuts” in an artificial budget baseline for future years — instead, real cuts in outlays this year. Last year’s budget deal put three‐fourths of the supposed spending reductions beyond the year 2000 — one presidential and two congressional elections away.
Targets aren’t hard to come by. Why should the U.S. underwrite the retirement and health care of wealthy Americans? Why should the government fund massive job training programs that don’t work?
And spending cuts would allow big tax cuts. Repealing all of Clinton’s hikes would be a good start — but only a start. The moral premise is simple:
Workers’ earnings belong to them, not to the government. They should be taxed only enough to fund genuinely vital programs and no more.
But tax cuts shouldn’t be held hostage to corresponding spending reductions. Tax cuts are necessary even if deficits result. Lower spending and reduced taxes even with red ink are better than higher spending and bigger taxes with black ink. Deficits help restrain congressional spending.
Everybody — even the much‐maligned “rich’ — deserves tax relief. The top 1% of earners pay nearly a third of all taxes. Today’s system, based on envy, unfairly punishes success. Instead of discouraging achievement, Uncle Sam should encourage people to prosper.
Along with tax reduction should come tax simplification. That could be a national sales tax or flat income tax. The goal should be to end social engineering by Congress and thuggish enforcement by the IRS. We would all benefit from more freedom as well as greater economic efficiency.
Most politicians who claim to speak for taxpayers do so with forked tongues. They raise tax burdens while promising tax relief. Americans who have just now finished paying off their government tab should consider voting this year on one issue: Which candidate is most likely to move Tax Freedom Day back — way back — where it belongs?